Parution : Reshaping the World : Debates on Mesoamerican Cosmologies


  • Díaz, Ana

Ana Díaz is associate professor at the Institute for Research in Aesthetics at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she lectures on indigenous art history and Mesoamerican studies. She is the author of El cuerpo del tiempo: Cosmología y tradiciones cronográficas del centro de México and El maíz se sienta para platicarCódices y formas de conocimiento nahua, más allá del mundo de los libros and editor of Cielos e inframundos: Una revisión de las cosmologías mesoamericanas.

Résumé de l’éditeur

“This well-researched volume demonstrates persuasively that Mesoamerican cultures varied considerably with regard to their notions of the cosmos. . . . A refreshing departure from much of the scholarship produced in the last century that should serve as a model for future researchers.”
Allen J. Christenson, Brigham Young University

Reshaping the World is a nuanced exploration of the plurality, complexity, and adaptability of Precolumbian and colonial-era Mesoamerican cosmological models and the ways in which anthropologists and historians have used colonial and indigenous texts to understand these models in the past. Since the early twentieth century, it has been popularly accepted that the Precolumbian Mesoamerican cosmological model comprised nine fixed layers of underworld and thirteen fixed layers of heavens. This layered model, which bears a close structural resemblance to a number of Eurasian cosmological models, derived in large part from scholars’ reliance on colonial texts, such as the post–Spanish Conquest Codex Vaticanus A and Florentine Codex.

By reanalyzing and recontextualizing both indigenous and colonial texts and imagery in nine case studies examining Maya, Zapotec, Nahua, and Huichol cultures, the contributors discuss and challenge the commonly accepted notion that the cosmos was a static structure of superimposed levels unrelated to and unaffected by historical events and human actions. Instead, Mesoamerican cosmology consisted of a multitude of cosmographic repertoires that operated simultaneously as a result of historical circumstances and regional variations. These spaces were, and are, dynamic elements shaped, defined, and redefined throughout the course of human history. Indigenous cosmographies could be subdivided and organized in complex and diverse arrangements—as components in a dynamic interplay, which cannot be adequately understood if the cosmological discourse is reduced to a superposition of nine and thirteen levels.

Unlike previous studies, which focus on the reconstruction of a pan-Mesoamerican cosmological model, Reshaping the World shows how the movement of people, ideas, and objects in New Spain and neighboring regions produced a deep reconfiguration of Prehispanic cosmological and social structures, enriching them with new conceptions of space and time. The volume exposes the reciprocal influences of Mesoamerican and European theologies during the colonial era, offering expansive new ways of understanding Mesoamerican models of the cosmos.

Contributors: Sergio Botta, Ana Díaz, Kerry Hull, Katarzyna Mikulska, Johannes Neurath, Jesper Nielsen, Toke Sellner Reunert†, David Tavárez, Alexander Tokovinine, Gabrielle Vail


  • List of figures ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction : rethinking the Mesoamerican cosmos /​ Ana Díaz 3
  • Part I. Recognition: On Describing Others’ Worlds
    • 1. Colliding universes : a reconsideration of the structure of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cosmos /​ Jesper Nielsen and Toke Sellner Reunert 31
    • 2. Incorporating Mesoamerican cosmology within a global history of religion : some considerations on the work of Lorenzo Pignoria /​ Sergio Botta 70
    • 3. Dissecting the sky : discursive translations in Mexican colonial cosmographies /​ Ana Díaz 100
  • Part II. Inventiveness: Reshaping Experience in Colonial Cosmologies
    • 4. The colonial encounter : transformations of indigenous Yucatec conceptions of k’uh /​ Gabrielle Vail 141
    • 5. Zapotec travels in time and space : the correlation between the 260-day cycle and a multi-level cosmological model /​ David Tavárez 180
    • 6. A cosmology of water : the universe according to the Ch’orti’ Maya /​ Kerry Hull 209
  • Part III. Complexity : Breaking paradigms on cosmological conceptions
    • 7. Distance and power in classic Maya texts /​ Alexandre Tokovinine 251
    • 8. The sky, the night and the number nine : considerations on the Nahua vision of the universe /​ Katarzyna Miku’lska 282
    • 9. Creating and destroying the upper part of the cosmos : a new approach to Wixarka cosmology /​ Johannes Neurath 319
  • About the Authors 341
  • Index 345

Informations pratiques

  • Éditeur : Boulder : University Press of Colorado
  • Date de parution : 2020
  • Description matérielle : 1 vol. (384 p.) : ill., couv. ill. en coul. ; 23 cm
  • ISBN 978-1-60732-943-5 (rel.) : 109 $. – ISBN 978-1-64642-005-6 (br.) : 42,95 $. – ISBN 978-1-60732-953-4 (élec.) : 35,95 $


  • Absent en France

Citer ce billet
Olivier Jacquot (2020, 20 mars). Parution : Reshaping the World : Debates on Mesoamerican Cosmologies. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 19 avril 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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